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Spinning reels are widely recognized as the most popular type of reel for several reasons. Firstly, they’re very simple to use. This makes them ideal for beginner anglers who are just starting out, or even for teaching your kids to fish.
Also, you can fish very light lines and smaller lures delicately and accurately with a spinning reel. Plus, you’re unlikely to get tangles in your line (which means more time fishing – win!). Without a doubt, it’s the best kind of reel for playing bass, trout, and panfish.
However, you can also progress with a spinning reel as you hone your skills. They aren’t just for newbies, as you can have a lot of fun with this setup.
There are many great reasons to take up fishing, including health and social benefits.  Picking up a spinning reel is an affordable way to get started.
There’s a spinning reel available for every budget and need, from beginner versions to high-end spinning reels. Choose from freshwater or saltwater specific reels, or go for an all-water reel you can take anywhere. You don’t need to spend a lot to get an awesome spinning reel with all the essential features.
Here’s what to look out for when buying a spinning reel!
If you’ve looked online or in your nearby sports store, you’ll have seen that there’s a huge variety of spinning reels on sale. The choices are endless, which can be pretty overwhelming. But not to worry! Our simple guide will show you how to choose a great spinning reel.
The best spinning reels are easy to use, quiet, and have a smooth drag. Let’s look more closely at the essential factors to consider when choosing your spinning reel!
Where do you like to fish?
First up, consider where you like to fish. Do you prefer to head to smaller rivers or calm lakes? Is inshore fishing your thing, or are you all about deep sea fishing for the biggest fish you can catch?
It’s important to think about this before you buy a reel. You need to buy a model that will provide the power, durability, and performance you require. That’s going to be different for freshwater vs. saltwater fishing, panfish vs. whoppers. So, identify the type of angling you prefer, including the environment, species, and the techniques you use.
Ideally, you want a lightweight reel that is also sturdy. This combination will prevent fatigue and allow you to make the most of your time out on the water. The most common options when it comes to reel housing include graphite, aluminum, plastic, and magnesium.
- Aluminum is strong and hardwearing, but it isn’t corrosion-resistant. It can also be a little heavy.
- In contrast, graphite spinning reels usually are very lightweight and a joy to use. You also get the added bonus of corrosion resistance, which is essential in a product that is in the water so often.
- Magnesium is another excellent choice for your reel frame, but they tend to be on the premium end of the scale.
- As for plastic, we don’t recommend it. Plastic-framed reels just aren’t durable enough to withstand the pressures they come under when fishing.
Choosing the right reel size will depend on the weight of the line you use. The heavier the weight, the bigger the reel will need to be to hold enough line. The reel will also need to match the rod you use for a balanced setup.
Make sure you look carefully at the specs for the line test and yardage capacity for both braided line and monofilament. This way, you’ll see which lines the reel is compatible with and whether it can hold enough line for your needs.
Check the Gear Ratio
The gear ratio will tell you how fast the line retrieve is. The higher the ratio, the more line it can retrieve with each turn of the handle.
But it’s not just about how fast the reel is, though. The gear ratio is also useful for working out how easy it will be to land a big catch. The lower the gear ratio, the more cranks you’ll have to make to haul in your catch.
It’s essential to look for a quality drag system, especially if you like the challenge of larger fish. The best reels have a smooth drag, which ensures you can haul in your catch with as little effort as possible. Another advantage is that it will protect your line from breaking. Don’t skimp on this factor, or you’ll regret it later on.
An anti-reverse switch is another handy feature to have. This switch will stop your handle from unwinding and undoing all your work. It’s usually possible to turn off this feature if you would like, but we recommend using it most of the time. Most reels do have an instant anti-reverse function now, but double-check your chosen model before you buy.
The Best Spinning Reels: Our Reviews
Here’s our roundup of the top spinning reels on the market!
PENN Spinfisher V
The Spinfisher V from Penn is an excellent spinning reel for any enthusiastic fisher. The Spinfisher V is about as sturdy as they come, with a full-metal frame and 5 stainless steel ball bearings. The HT 100 slammer drag system ensures a super-smooth drag that makes it easy to haul in fish and protects your line, at the same time. Plus, the drag system is fully sealed to safeguard it from corrosion and damaging sand particles that can wreck your reel.
The Spinfisher V is built from high-quality materials and designed to last, so you’ll be set for years with this product. Another advantage is that there’s no need to use backing thanks to the inlaid rubber in the spool. You can add a braided line directly for a quick and easy setup (which means more time fishing!).
The Spinfisher V looks sleek and attractive, with its black and gold design. But most importantly, it’s a delight to use and gives a consistent performance. That makes this product among the best spinning reels on the market right now!
- Suitable for saltwater fishing
- Very smooth drag
- Sealed drag system for durability
- Instant anti-reverse feature
- A more expensive model – not a budget option
- The paint may start to chip after a while
Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000 XG FB
The Stradic Ci4+ is another fantastic model from the respected Shimano company. This reel excels because it has a very sturdy frame that is incredibly lightweight at the same time: a winning formula! That’s down to the smart combination of the carbon body and aluminum spool, creating a tough but featherlight model Admittedly, the Shimano Stradic is one of the more expensive spinning reels on our list, coming in at over $200 – but we think it’s worth the price.
The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ can handle up to 20lb of pressure, but it weighs just 5.6 ounces. That makes for an ultralight, comfortable fishing set up. You can fish with the Stradic Ci4+ all day without suffering from arm fatigue. It’s also very quiet and requires minimal effort to turn the handle.
The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ offers superb line management, so you don’t have to waste time fiddling with tangles. Plus, there’s low startup inertia, and the drag system is buttery smooth. It’s ideal for all sorts of freshwater fish, but especially for trout. You can use it on saltwater, but it might begin to struggle if you hook a whopper.
- Super lightweight – weighs just 5.6 ounces
- The drag system is smooth
- The Shimano Stradic has a strong build
- Not one of the best reels for big saltwater fish
- No anti-reverse switch
KastKing Valiant Eagle
If you’re on a tighter budget, the KastKing Valiant Eagle is one of the best affordable spinning reels around. It ticks all the boxes, with a high-speed gear ratio and speedy line retrieve. That translates to fewer cranks of the handle to haul a fish in!
KastKing has come with a unique design for the spool, allowing you to cast even further and with superior line management and control. This spin reel gives the best premium spinning reels a run for their money, yet it comes in well under $100.
The frame is made from graphite, and it boasts 11 stainless steel ball bearings. The spool itself is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and anodized for corrosion resistance. For ultimate comfort, the EVA handle is ergonomic and lightweight. And with a fully sealed drag, the drag washers can provide reliably consistent drag pressure when you hook a fish.
Plus, it just looks cool! With its sleek black aesthetic, dynamically shaped handle, and bright green trim, the Valiant Eagle will provide the perfect finish to your rod setup. It takes its inspiration from the eagle in its name, with its daring form. Altogether, the Valiant Eagle is a top affordable option for spin fishermen and women.
- Waterproof, sealed carbon drag system
- High-speed line retrieve
- Strong and durable
- One of the best budget spin reels
- Stainless steel ball bearings are corrosion-resistant
- It’s quite noisy
- This model has more flex than other spinning reels, especially when you land a big fish
The Daiwa BG (Black Gold) is a sturdy reel that’s worth checking out. At just under $100, it’ offers a few extra features than basic spinning reels. The machined aluminum body and side plate provide unbeatable strength. Both the side plate and body of the reel are anodized to prevent scratches and rust. The black finish gives a definite edge to this reel, while the gold highlights are eye-catching in contrast.
In action, the Daiwa BG feels powerful and smooth, without weighing you down. Thanks to the innovative shape, this reel weighs 15% less than most spinning reels. The result is that you can fish for longer and make the most of your time out on the water. The drag pressure is consistent, allowing you to land every fish you catch.
You’ll also find cool features like an anti-reverse switch as standard on all Daiwa BG models. The great price and respectable performance of the Daiwa BG make it one of the best spinning reels right now.
- One of the best reels in this price range
- Very smooth, consistent drag
- Super sturdy construction
- The maximum drag isn’t as high as on some spinning reels
- The larger rotor means you need to take care not to bump your knuckles on the retrieve
- No line holder
Pflueger has been making top fishing gear since 1883. With over a century of expertise and innovation, we couldn’t wait to take a look at Pflueger’s President reel and see how it fares. If you’re looking for a reliable reel on a budget, the President is for you. It’ll set you back just over $50, without losing out on any of the quality or features we know you’re looking for.
The Pflueger President offers everything you need: a braid-ready spool, rigid frame, sealed drag, and instant anti-reverse. The President is built to last, with an aircraft-grade aluminum handle and sturdy graphite body that won’t flex when you’re fishing. It’s kitted out with 10 ball bearings and a stainless steel roller that are all corrosion-resistant.
The power of the multi-disc drag will take your breath away. You’ll have no trouble reeling in big fish with this monster reel!
- Excellent value for money
- Rigid but lightweight model
- Sealed multi-disc drag gets the job done well!
- A bit noisy
- The drag is a bit difficult to set on these reels
The Okuma Ceymar is an affordable 8-bearing reel that comes in 6 different models. Whether you’re into finesse fishing or big water angling, you can find the perfect Ceymar reel to suit your needs. Okuma RESII computer balancing allows the rotor to spin at high speeds without a wobble, for smooth performance and fast line retrieve.
The contoured EVA foam handle is ergonomic and comfortable to use, while the unique design of the body reduces weight. The Ceymar has 8BB + 1RB, an anti-reverse roller bearing, and the drag is fully sealed for increased durability. No sand or water should get stuck inside your reel, causing it to rust or feel gritty in use.
The maximum drag of the C-30 is 8lbs, while the C-55 can handle an impressive 18lbs of pressure and take up to 200 yards of line. These reels shouldn’t be overlooked – they make a great choice for any angler.
- Smooth functioning
- Durable rod with stainless steel components
- Superb value for money
- You’ll need to take extra care with maintenance if you’re using the Ceymar in saltwater
- A smaller size reel
- Slower gear ratio at 5:1
Penn Battle II
The Battle II is a mid-range reel that lives up to its name. This reel is made from the hardiest, high-quality materials and can fight down any fish, no matter the size. With a full-metal body and heavy-duty aluminum wire, this reel was built to last.
Its superline spool is braid-ready – no backing necessary. The line capacity rings are a handy feature, letting you know how much capacity you’ve got left on your reel. It’s loaded with 5 stainless steel ball bearings which ensure the smoothest performance, as well as the instant anti-reverse bearing.
The Penn Battle II is one of the top spinning reels you can buy without breaking the bank. Take your pick from the 8 different models in the Battle II range. You won’t be disappointed!
- Quality componentry
- These reels are suitable for casting long distance
- Perfect for fighting big saltwater fish
- Carbon fiber drag is powerful yet smooth
- Not the lightest reel
- Tricky to take apart and put back together for cleaning
SHIMANO Exsence SW
The Exsence SW is another Shimano reel that deserves a spot on this list. While this high-end reel won’t be for everyone, it truly is one of the top spinning reels money can buy! If you’re a competitive spin fisher, check out this beauty. It’s a highly specialized reel, designed for finesse fishing and light inshore fishing.
The Shimano Exsence can handle 20-24 lbs of pressure, making it suitable for catching lunkers. The innovative MicroModule Gearing creates the smoothest experience ever, allowing you to detect any strikes, no matter how subtle. The rotor is perfectly balanced and has almost inexistent startup inertia.
Plus, as you’d expect from a rod of this price, all the components are high-quality and corrosion-resistant. You can use it safely in saltwater with minimum maintenance thanks to the smart internal labyrinth structure. This reel should last you years, if not decades.
The Exsence SW is the ideal reel for salmon fishing. It is super smooth but packs enough power to set your hooks and reel in these hefty fish.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- The smoothest reel you’ll find – very responsive
- Robust and hardwearing
- Suitable for big catches
- Very expensive
- The line capacity is relatively low
If you’re looking for a mighty reel for fighting the biggest fish, check out the Cadence CS8. With an incredible 36 lbs of maximum drag, this reel won’t let you down. It’s also very lightweight and strong thanks to the magnesium body construction. The rotor and side plates are made from carbon, and it’s kitted out with a carbon fiber drag that performs reliably. The spool has a large line capacity for both braided line or monofilament.
The Cadence’s gear ratio is impressive at 6.2:1 for a superfast line retrieve. The 9 ball bearings are corrosion-resistant and keep the reel steady at all times. The Cadence CS8’s unique drag makes it easy to set the drag according to your requirements for a custom experience. The ergonomic EVA handle is lightweight and designed to fit nicely in your hand.
If you like to challenge yourself to catch the biggest bass or catfish out there, the Cadence CS8 is for you.
- Great value for money
- Packs a lot of power
- Lightweight but sturdy construction
- Flawless performance
- The finish isn’t perfect
- Not the quietest reel
When you’re just starting out, you don’t want to spend too much money on equipment. That’s why we think the KastKing Centron is the perfect spinning reel for the beginner angler. It provides consistent performance and excellent value for money. The Centron comes in five different models, from the Centron 500 which is suited to ultralight/ice fishing, up to the Centron 5000.
The Centron has all the necessary features for a good day out fishing. It’s well-balanced and smooth with 10 bearings, it’s lightweight, and the drag is plenty powerful. It’s not a high-end reel, but it gets the job done! We love the cool black/blue finish, and it’s anodized for extra durability.
For a super affordable reel from a respected manufacturer, grab the KastKing Centron. It’s just what you need to get started with spin fishing.
- Lightweight reel
- A top budget spinning reel
- Sturdy components
- Not fully corrosion-resistant
- Best suited to freshwater only
What is the best spinning reel on the market?
The best spinning reel will be strong yet smooth, with a high gear ratio and a large line capacity. Which one to go for depends on your budget. The best spinning reel under $100 is the Daiwa BG. If you’ve got more to spend, check out the Penn Spinfisher or the Shimano Stradic.
What is the best freshwater spinning reel?
The best freshwater spinning reel is hard to narrow down, but some of the best brands to check out include Shimano, Penn, KastKing, and Pflueger. Read our reviews above for more info on some of the top freshwater spinning reels around!
What is the fastest spinning reel?
The fastest spinning reel has to be the KastKing Speed Demon, with a mind-blowing gear ratio of 7.2:1!
The Wrap Up
Spin fishing is great fun, but you need a sturdy reel for the best experience. There are a few vital factors to look out for, including a smooth and consistent performance, good gear ratio, and lightweight components.
There are hundreds of reels on the market, making it hard to narrow down which to buy (even when you know what to look out for!) To make your search easy, we rounded up the best products around now. Grab any of the reels above, and you won’t be disappointed. Take your pick from budget models to highly-specialized reels for the serious angler.
Drop us a comment to let us know which reel you’re tempted to buy! Or let us know which reel you think deserves to be on this list. We love hearing from you guys. And while you’re here, don’t forget to check out more helpful reviews and fishing articles at Fly Fisher Pro!